Justia International Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Internet Law
Twitter, Inc. v. Taamneh
A 2017 terrorist attack on an Istanbul nightclub, committed on behalf of ISIS, killed Alassaf and 38 others. Alassaf’s family sued Facebook, Twitter, and Google (which owns YouTube) under 18 U.S.C. 2333, which permits U.S. nationals who have been injured by an act of international terrorism to sue for damages. They alleged that the companies knowingly allowed ISIS and its supporters to use their platforms and “recommendation” algorithms for recruiting, fundraising, and spreading propaganda and have profited from the advertisements placed on ISIS content. The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the complaint.A unanimous Supreme Court reversed. The 2016 Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, section 2333(d)(2), imposes secondary civil liability on anyone “who aids and abets, by knowingly providing substantial assistance, or who conspires with the person who committed such an act of international terrorism.” The Court concluded that it is not enough for a defendant to have given substantial assistance to a transcendent enterprise. A defendant must have knowingly provided substantial assistance in the commission of the actionable wrong—here, an act of international terrorism. The allegations do not show that the defendants gave ISIS such knowing and substantial assistance that they culpably participated in the attack. There are no allegations that the platforms were used to plan the attack; that the defendants gave ISIS special treatment; nor that the defendants carefully screened content before allowing users to upload it. The mere creation of media platforms is no more culpable than the creation of email, cell phones, or the internet generally.The allegations rest primarily on passive nonfeasance. The plaintiffs identify no duty that would require communication-providing services to terminate customers after discovering that the customers were using the service for illicit ends. The expansive scope of the claims would necessarily hold the defendants liable for aiding and abetting every ISIS terrorist act committed anywhere in the world. The Ninth Circuit improperly focused primarily on the value of the platforms to ISIS, rather than whether the defendants culpably associated themselves with the attack. View "Twitter, Inc. v. Taamneh" on Justia Law
Gonzalez v. Google LLC
In 2015, ISIS terrorists unleashed coordinated attacks across Paris, killing 130 victims, including Gonzalez, a 23-year-old U.S. citizen. Gonzalez’s family sued Google under 18 U.S.C. 2333(a), (d)(2). They alleged that Google was directly and secondarily liable for the terrorist attack that killed Gonzalez, citing the use of YouTube, which Google owns and operates, by ISIS and ISIS supporters.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit, finding most of the claims were barred by the Communications Decency Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. 230(c)(1). The sole exceptions were claims based on allegations that Google approved ISIS videos for advertisements and then shared proceeds with ISIS through YouTube’s revenue-sharing system. The court held that these potential claims were not barred by section 230, but that the allegations nonetheless failed to state a viable claim. The complaint neither plausibly alleged that “Google reached an agreement with ISIS,” as required for conspiracy liability, nor that Google’s acts were “intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, or to influence or affect a government,” as required for a direct-liability claim.The Supreme Court vacated. The complaint. independent of section 230, states little if any claim for relief. The Court noted its contemporaneously-issued “Twitter” decision and held that the complaint fails to state a claim for aiding and abetting. The Court remanded the case for consideration in light of the Twitter decision. View "Gonzalez v. Google LLC" on Justia Law
NBA Properties, Inc. v. HANWJH
NBA Properties owns the trademarks of the NBA and NBA teams. In 2020, a Properties investigator accessed HANWJH’s online Amazon store and purchased an item, designating an address in Illinois as the delivery destination. The product was delivered to the Illinois address. Properties sued, alleging trademark infringement and counterfeiting, 15 U.S.C. 1114 and false designation of origin, section 1125(a). Properties obtained a TRO and a temporary asset restraint on HANWJH’s bank account, then moved for default; despite having been served, HANWJH had not answered or otherwise defended the suit. HANWJH moved to dismiss, arguing that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over it because it did not expressly aim any conduct at Illinois. HANWJH maintained that it had never sold any other product to any consumer in Illinois nor had it any “offices, employees,” “real or personal property,” “bank accounts,” or any other commercial dealings with Illinois.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion to dismiss and the entry of judgment in favor of Properties. HANWJH shipped a product to Illinois after it structured its sales activity in such a manner as to invite orders from Illinois and developed the capacity to fill them. HANWJH’s listing of its product on Amazon.com and its sale of the product to counsel are related sufficiently to the harm of likelihood of confusion. Illinois has an interest in protecting its consumers from purchasing fraudulent merchandise. HANWJH alleges no unusual burden in defending the suit in Illinois. View "NBA Properties, Inc. v. HANWJH" on Justia Law
WhatsApp Inc.v. NSO Group Technologies Ltd.
WhatsApp sued under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and California state law, alleging that NSO, a privately owned and operated Israeli corporation, sent malware through WhatsApp’s server system to approximately 1,400 mobile devices. NSO argued that foreign sovereign immunity protected it from suit and, therefore, the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because NSO was acting as an agent of a foreign state, entitling it to “conduct-based immunity”—a common-law doctrine that protects foreign officials acting in their official capacity.The district court and Ninth Circuit rejected that argument. The Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act, 28 U.S.C. 1602, occupies the field of foreign sovereign immunity and categorically forecloses extending immunity to any entity that falls outside the Act’s broad definition of “foreign state.” There has been no indication that the Supreme Court intended to extend foreign official immunity to entities. Moreover, the FSIA’s text, purpose, and history demonstrate that Congress displaced common-law sovereign immunity as it relates to entities. View "WhatsApp Inc.v. NSO Group Technologies Ltd." on Justia Law
Swenberg v. Dmarcian
Swenberg sued Dmarcian, Draegen, and Groeneweg, alleging claims related to his ownership interest in and employment with the company. Dmarcian was incorporated in Delaware and, in 2017, registered with the California Secretary of State as a foreign corporation with its “principal executive office” in Burlingame. Groeneweg, who resides in the Netherlands, is alleged to be a chief executive of, and have an ownership interest in, “a company whose true name is unknown to Swenberg, but which was a European affiliate entity of” Dmarcian (Dmarcian EU). The complaint alleges on information and belief that Groeneweg is presently a shareholder or beneficial owner of Dmarcian.The trial court granted Groeneweg’s motion to quash service for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court of appeal reversed. By publicly presenting himself as a leader of Dmarcian, having Dmarcian EU’s web address automatically route to Dmarcian’s Web site, administered in California, and receiving prospective customers directed to Dmarcian EU by a Dmarcian employee in California, Groeneweg “purposely availed himself " of forum benefits and purposefully derived benefit from his activities in the forum. There is no unfairness in requiring him to subject himself to the jurisdiction of California courts in litigation involving his relationship with that California company and its employees. View "Swenberg v. Dmarcian" on Justia Law
Retana v. Twitter, Inc.
Internet services and social media providers may not be held secondarily liable under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) for aiding and abetting a foreign terrorist organization—here, Hamas—based only on acts committed by a sole individual entirely within the United States.In July 2016, plaintiff and thirteen other police officers were shot and either injured or killed during a tragic mass-shooting committed by Micah Johnson in Dallas, Texas. Plaintiff and his husband filed suit against Twitter, Google, and Facebook, alleging that defendants are liable because they provided material support to Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization that used Internet services and social media platforms to radicalize Johnson to carry out the Dallas shooting.The Fifth Circuit held, based on plaintiffs' allegations, that the Dallas shooting was committed solely by Johnson, not by Hamas's use of defendants' Internet services and social media platforms to radicalize Johnson. Therefore, it was not an act of international terrorism committed, planned, or authorized by a foreign terrorist organization. The court also held that defendants did not knowingly and substantially assist Hamas in the Dallas shooting, again because the shooting was committed by Johnson alone and not by Hamas either alone or in conjunction with Johnson. Therefore, the district court was correct in concluding that defendants are not secondarily liable under the ATA. The court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Retana v. Twitter, Inc." on Justia Law
France.com, Inc. v. The French Republic
In 1994, a California corporation purchased and registered the domain name and trademarks for “France.com.” Twenty years later, the corporation initiated a lawsuit in France, challenging a Dutch company’s use of the France.com trademark. The French Republic and its tourism office intervened, seeking to protect their country’s Internet identity and establish its right to the domain name. French trial and appellate courts declared the French Republic the rightful owner of the domain name. In the U.S., the corporation sued the French entities, which asserted sovereign immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1604. The district court denied a motion to dismiss, concluding that immunity “would be best raised after discovery.”The Fourth Circuit reversed, directing the district court to dismiss the complaint with prejudice. The court concluded that it had jurisdiction over the appeal because the district court rested its order not on a failure to state a claim but on a denial of sovereign immunity, which constitutes an appealable collateral order. Neither FSIA’s “commercial activity” exception nor its “expropriation” exception applies. It is not clear that the French State’s actions in obtaining the website in judicial proceedings constitute “seizure” or an “expropriation” and they clearly do not constitute “commercial activity.” The corporation itself invoked the power of the French courts; only because it did so could the French State intervene in that action to obtain the challenged result. View "France.com, Inc. v. The French Republic" on Justia Law
Force v. Facebook, Inc.
Plaintiffs, U.S. citizens of Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel, appealed the district court's dismissal of their federal civil antiterrorism and Israeli law claims against Facebook, alleging that Facebook unlawfully assisted Hamas in the attacks. Plaintiff argued that Hamas used Facebook to post content that encouraged terrorist attacks in Israel during the time period of the attacks.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment as to the federal claims, holding that 42 U.S.C. 230(c)(1) bars civil liability claims that treat a provider or user of an interactive computer service as a publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider. In this case, plaintiffs' claims fell within Facebook's status as the publisher of information within the meaning of the statute, and Facebook did not develop the content of the postings at issue. Therefore, section 230(c)(1) applied to Facebook's alleged conduct in this case. The court also held that applying section 230(c)(1) to plaintiffs' claims would not impair the enforcement of a federal criminal statute; the Anti-Terrorism Act's civil remedies provision, 18 U.S.C. 2333, did not implicitly narrow or repeal section 230(c)(1); and applying section 230(c)(1) to plaintiffs' claims would not be impermissibly extraterritorial. Finally, in regard to the foreign law claims, the court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction sua sponte to cure jurisdictional defects and therefore dismissed these claims. View "Force v. Facebook, Inc." on Justia Law
Weinstein v. Islamic Republic of Iran
Plaintiffs are victims of terrorist attacks and their family members who hold substantial unsatisfied money judgments against defendants Iran, North Korea, and Syria. The money judgments arise out of claims brought under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1605. In order to satisfy the judgments, plaintiffs seek to attach Internet data managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and, accordingly, served writs of attachment on ICANN. The district court quashed the writs because it found that the data was unattachable under D.C. law. The court rejected ICANN’s challenge to the district court’s subject matter jurisdiction, and assumed without deciding that local law applies to the determination of the “attachability” of the defendant sovereigns’ country-code top level domain names (ccTLDs), and without so holding that local law does not operate to bar attachment of the defendant sovereigns’ ccTLDs. The court concluded that those plaintiffs seeking to attach the underlying judgments in Haim I, Weinstein and Stern have forfeited their claims in toto. Those plaintiffs seeking to attach the underlying judgments in Haim II, Rubin, Wyatt and Calderon-Cardona have forfeited all but their claim grounded in the terrorist activity exception to attachment immunity. Finally, because of the enormous third-party interests at stake - and because there is no way to execute on plaintiffs’ judgments without impairing those interests - the court cannot permit attachment. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Weinstein v. Islamic Republic of Iran" on Justia Law
ClearCorrect Operating, LLC v. Int’l Trade Comm’n
The Tariff Act of 1930 gives the International Trade Commission authority to remedy only those unfair acts that involve the importation of “articles” as described in 19 U.S.C. 1337(a). The Commission instituted an investigation based on a complaint filed by Align, concerning violation of 19 U.S.C. 1337 by reason of infringement of various claims of seven different patents concerning orthodontic devices. The accused “articles” were the transmission of the “digital models, digital data and treatment plans, expressed as digital data sets, which are virtual three-dimensional models of the desired positions of the patients’ teeth at various stages of orthodontic treatment” from Pakistan to the United States. The Federal Circuit reversed, holding that the Commission lacked jurisdiction. The Commission’s decision to expand the scope of its jurisdiction to include electronic transmissions of digital data runs counter to the “unambiguously expressed intent of Congress.” View "ClearCorrect Operating, LLC v. Int'l Trade Comm'n" on Justia Law